This dish came about by accident really. In a panic to pull together an appetizer for the evening's dinner guests (arriving in a matter of hours!) this became the result of using what I had on hand in my walk-in. I'm weirdly most comfortable with a fryer ... must be from my diner days. Delicata squash rings, roasted then tempura and fried, then stuffed with a simple salad of raw pear, dried cherries, feta cheese and a few sprigs of arugula. The result is a sweet yet savory wonder, perfect for a starter or perhaps a decadent side dish on a holiday table.
Technique tip: Do not overcrowd your fryer. Overcrowding causes the heat of the oil to drop, which creates a steaming effect and produces a less crispy product.
Swap options: Feel free to substitute apples for the pear, golden raisins or dried cranberries for the dried cherries, grated parmesan or pecorino for the feta and/or walnuts for the hazelnuts.
- 1 delicata squash (about 1½ pounds)
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- fresh nutmeg, for grating
- 1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 2 firm but ripe pears
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
- 3/4 cup club soda
- 1 handful baby arugula
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 400 F.2.
Cut the squash crosswise into six rings, about 1-inch thick. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Place the rings on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and grate fresh nutmeg. Wrap the squash in the foil and roast in the oven until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.3.
In a small bowl, add the shallot and rice wine vinegar. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to let the shallot soften and the flavors meld. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Slice the pears into matchsticks (a mandoline works well for this).4.
In a medium bowl, combine the pears, feta crumbles and dried cherries. Add the dressing and toss to combine.5.
Preheat a deep fryer to 375 F.6.
In a medium bowl, add the flour. Slowly whisk in the club soda, whisking until smooth. Dredge the squash rings in a bit of flour, then in the batter, one at a time. Fry in batches until golden. Do not overfill the fryer. Remove the squash from the fryer and place on a paper towel lined tray, sprinkle with salt to taste.7.
Arrange the squash rings on a platter, place a few arugula leaves in the center of each ring then divide the pear salad between each ring. Grate fresh nutmeg over each and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately.